CEDAR CITY – Down a dozen in the second half, No. 1-ranked Dixie had every reason for grave concern against the Bear River Bears in the the 3A semifinals. But did Dixie panic? Nah, they got busy.
After scoring just four points in the second quarter and getting behind by as many as 12 points in the third, the Flyers rallied for a 58-49 win Friday night at SUU’s Centrum Arena. A pesky full-court press and some clutch 3-pointers aided in the comeback.
“It was a little sketchy there for awhile,” Dixie forward James Eardley said. “It was a little crazy. But I just thought honestly if we left everything on the floor and gave it everything we had, everything would be OK. We came out on top, so I guess it was.”
Flyers coach Ryan Cuff was a little more specific.
“Credit Bear River, they came out more ready than we did,” he said. “But our guys didn’t quit. They believed in each other. They kept fighting and knew that we had to pick up the pace. We always felt like we had a shot.”
Eardley’s right, though. Things were pretty sketchy for Dixie after falling behind 34-22 early in the third quarter. Bear River had put in a 1-3-1 zone that turned a six-point first-quarter deficit into a 29-22 lead at halftime. Things looked especially bleak after just two minutes of the second half when the Bears scored the first five points and were sitting pretty with a 34-22 lead.
“It was still OK because we know what we’re capable of and what we need to do as a team,” point guard Malachi Otis said. “We had the worst taste in our mouth from last year, so we have some unfinished business still to take care of.”
Cuff used a timeout to instigate a full-court press for the Flyers. Although it didn’t directly result in a lot of turnovers, the press seemed to energize Dixie and fluster Bear River. By the time the third quarter expired, the Flyers had trimmed the BR lead to 41-34.
Three minutes into the final quarter, Bear River still held a 43-37 lead and seemed to be weathering the Dixie storm. After a Bears free throw, Otis hit his only 3-pointer of the game to pull the deficit to four at 44-40.
Bear River threw the ball away in the half-court set on the next possession and Dixie cut it to 44-42 on a two-handed tip-in by Tyler Bennett.
The Flyers nearly completed the comeback on a 3-pointer by Connor Dyches with 2:47 left on the clock. Dyches’ trey was the second of the period and came from about 21 feet out. It was nothing but net, making the score 47-46, Bears by a point.
Bear River worked the clock and the half-court on the next possession, but Bennett, who finished with a game-high 23 points, anticipated a pass and swiped it away on the dead run. He grabbed possession at about mid-court with no one in front of him. About 4,000 people in full knowledge that Bennett can dunk with best of them in Utah roared to life.
His dunk compelled most of the fans in attendance to their feet and prompted a timeout by Bear River. It also gave Dixie its first lead since the first half, making it 48-47 with 2:05 to play.
Dixie then finished the night by hitting a bunch of free throws and playing stingy defense. Richard Guymon blocked two shots in the last two minutes to help seal the deal.
“Mal and Tyler play amazing defense, but they always say that they like it that if they ever do happen to get beat that I’m there to help them out,” Guymon said. “It’s hard to go up and try not to foul, but still get a block. But that’s what I try to do.”
Dixie outscored Bear River 24-8 in the fourth quarter. Along with Bennett’s 23, Eardley dropped in 11 and Dyches and Nate Crockett had six each. The Bears were led by Triston Hartfiel’s 18 points. Gunner Sorensen added 10.
Dixie can now focus on what the Flyers consider unfinished business. DHS lost in last season’s championship game.
The Flyers, 22-4, will get a chance to atone for that loss Saturday at 2:45 p.m. in the Centrum. Dixie will battle Juan Diego, the Region 11 champion. Bear River, 16-8, will play in the third-place game against Canyon View at 10:45 a.m. at Cedar high School.
Desert Hills 62, Pine View 51
Junior Logan Hokanson had 18 points and Marcus McKone dropped in 11 of his 13 in the second half as the Thunder pulled away from the Panthers in a consolation game.
The win gives the Thunder a three-game sweep on the season against their rival.
Tanner Turley chipped in 12 for Desert Hills, which improved to 18-6. The Thunder will play for fifth place against the Logan Grizzlies at 10:45 a.m. Saturday at Canyon View High School.
Cody Ruesch had 17 points and six rebounds and Dylan Hendrickson had 10 points for Pine View,which ends the season with a 14-10 record.
Logan 87, Snow Canyon 63
Rylan Jones made six 3-pointers and the Grizzlies ran away with a 24-point win in the early game Friday.
Jones, just a freshman, also had six rebounds, four assists and three steals and made several of his treys from NBA range. He had plenty of help as well as Jared Bagley had 18 points and Jason Anderson came off the bench for 15 for Logan. The Grizz had nine 3-pointers in the game.
Brock Staheli had 14 for Snow Canyon and Justin Loveless added 12 in the two seniors’ last game.
It was also the final contest as head coach for SC’s James Brown, who announced his retirement from coaching a couple of weeks ago. Brown coached 15 years at Snow Canyon, winning numerous region championships and the 2002 3A state title. His teams missed the playoffs just twice in those 15 years.
The Warriors end this season with a 9-14 record.
“I’m just so proud of the kids for coming out and competing hard today to close out the season,” he said. “Logan’s a great team, but we competed with them for most of the game.”
The Grizzlies play Desert Hills at 10:45 a.m. Saturday at Canyon View High School in the fifth-place game.
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